Coca-Cola is a Bastion of Environmental Sustainability? I Don’t Think So.
[This is the second in a three-part series exposing the truth about several American companies that have been depicted as leaders of environmental sustainability.]
Now let’s take a look at Coca-Cola, a company whose survival Jared Diamond claims is “deeply concerned with problems of water scarcity, energy, climate change and agriculture.” People in India probably don’t think that Coke cares about their agriculture or water rights.
In Varanasi, a city in northeastern India, thousands of villagers have been actively protesting the presence of Coke in their community, complaining that the company has drastically reduced the water tables in the region by over-extraction of groundwater for their bottling plants. This has been taking place in a time of intense drought. In 2009, India had its worst drought year in 40 years, and the situation is especially bad in the northeast since the monsoons failed to come last year.
The India Resource Center has been working hard to challenge Coca-Cola’s presence in drought-stricken regions. Says Amit Srivastava, “Operating water-guzzling bottling plants in drought hit areas where the communities and farmers do not have access to water is highly unethical and criminal. Coca-Cola should never have located its plants in drought-prone areas, and, as droughts become more frequent in India as a result of climate change, we will increase our efforts to shut down Coca-Cola in these areas.”
Even more shocking than Coca-Cola’s presence in drought-stricken regions is an allegation that workers from one of Coke’s bottling plants, operating in the Palakkad district of southwest India, distributed sacks of “manure” as free fertilizer to local farmers. These sacks were later allegedly revealed to contain a toxic sludge of Coke’s byproducts, and laced with dangerously high levels of heavy metals including cadmium and lead.
The polluting facility was later forced to close, after community pressure and an investigation into the source of the pollutants. Given such incidents, it’s baffling that anyone could opine about Coke’s deep concern over issues such as water scarcity or agriculture. Still think Coca-Cola is deserving of accolades?
- Marie Logan